Saturday, 28 December 2013

Christmas at the Dog & Doublet

We've had a lovely few days here at the Dog & Doublet.  Yes - we have outstayed our "48 hours", and I know it's not the attitude to take - and we always stick to the rules (unless we physically can't move when we're frozen in), but there's a boat here that's been here for over 12 months!  On the 48 hour moorings!  I don't want to start a rant (Dave Smith!), so I'll just shake my head - it's just wrong!

Anyway, we love stopping here as Jim, Trish and the locals are always so friendly, and give a big welcome, and more to the point, remember us, which is always nice, when you only visit once a year.  While we were here I looked up the Dog & Doublet on "Trip Advisor", and found quite a few negative comments listed.  The only thing I can say is to those who do give negative comments:- whenever you walk into a pub, try smiling yourself first, then give a cheery "hello" - I'm sure you'll find the response from bar staff rather different (I say this, after spending many years serving behind the bar).  If the service is still crap, then fair enough, comment away - but just give it a try!

Another reason for stopping here is the RSPB reserve 1/4 mile away at Kingsbury.  Unfortunately, after Dave packed his rucksack full of allsorts from flask to telescope, to venture on the first bird watching expedition, he was met with a load of signs "Do not walk here or you will be shot", or something like that.  It seems the whole area is in the middle of a "flood alleviation scheme", so access to the various hides from the towpath has been stopped.  We did see the start of it when we came this way last January.  Eventually, after a 2 mile detour, he managed to get to the lakes, but was rather disappointed by the number of birds - or lack of them.  He did see the odd golden eye, and crested grebe, which I'll put in a blog later.

Towpath all fenced off into Kingsbury Water Park

So this is our view - that's the pub in front of us - not bad eh!.  Nemo has been running around like a mad thing since we got here, as he was too scared to venture out in Birmingham as there was always someone walking past.  Despite his size, he is a bit of a wuss.  Ok a big wuss.
We've had the two fires burning, and are getting through the wood we brought with us.  I don't know what we're going to do when it actually gets cold, but for now, we're nice and toastie thank you very much, with the big wood burner going in the back.  Nemo appreciates it to....

Friday, 27 December 2013

Leaving Birmingham

Well, that's the city done for now.  We had a lovely few days in Birmingham, but we decided to make a run for the Dog & Doublet at Bodymoor Heath, before the forecast storms arrived.  Dave was still smiling after meeting his heroine Cerys Matthews at the concert we went to a few days earlier.  We - or rather I - had a dilemma:  do we stay for the Black Sabbath concert in the NIA on the Sunday night, then leave in the forecast hurricane on the Monday, or go while the weather is good. I'm ashamed to say, that I took the latter option, and ran away while the sun shone.  I know, I know, those reading this from long, long ago, will, at this point, clasp their foreheads, and shout NO!, but I'm afraid folks, again I must be getting old, and took the easy weather option, so no Ozzy for me this year!

There's a lot of construction work going on at the NIA, and the company carrying out the work is BAM Nuttall - who I worked for, for almost 20 years in the North West - when it was plain old Edmund Nuttall Ltd.  A previous life!

We had our own boat trip round the city centre, when we topped up with water and went to get diesel - we wanted to ensure we were topped up in case they closed for Christmas.  We did try and use the Away-2-Service boat, but the skipper was playing Father Christmas for the week, so no services available. 

Round Sherbourne loop, passing Duncan Bannatyne's gym.  I refrained from taking photos of the panting masses on the gym equipment in the window!

And yes, we did venture into the city centre on the Saturday before Christmas. 
Hell!!  Hell I tell you!
You had to move with the masses, like being on a conveyor belt, propelled along.  Very tricky when you wanted to make a right turn.  The actual plan was to avoid all this and head directly to the meat & veg market, by means of the back door, and then run away.  This first part of the plan went very well, as we know our way around abit now.  However, on reaching the markets, we realised we had overlooked one critical thing - CASH!  The brusque market traders wouldn't be very impressed with our 'plastic'!  So we then realised that we would have to find an autobank.  The nearest shop at that point was Selfridges, which led into the Bull Ring shopping centre.  No problem - bound to be a hole in the wall here! - then we saw the crowds!  After a quick look at the shopping centre map, we joined the heaving masses up the escalator, quickly found the nearest cash point, and left by the quickest way possible.  How can anyone say that this could be an enjoyable experience?

Horay!  It's Pan Pipe Man. 
My Christmas would now be complete after hearing him - and he's got a mate with him.
(readers of the blog will recall him popping up in every town centre we visited over the last few Christmases)

Festive band playing carols in Brindley Place
Brindley place looking festive in the dark

Ooh, and we went for a lovely Thai banquet as well!
(I should have been holding the chopsticks for effect)

And so we moved out of Birmingham before the weather turned.  We had been for a walk the previous day, and noticed that the bottom gates on the top lock at Farmer's Bridge were open, with the paddle up.  "Ah, one coming up" we thought.  However, as we continued walking, we discovered that it was a boat going down.  "Excuse me - but why are you leaving the gates and paddles open?"  They replied "For any boats coming up, of course".  "But what about those coming down behind you - like me" (didn't tell them that we weren't coming down till the following day).  Dave explained that this was not the done thing, and they should close all gates and paddles.  This then started a row - between the couple on the boat going down!  "See!  I told you we're supposed to shut the gates" etc etc. We hurried away and left them to it.  Thankfully, when we started our descent the following day on the boat, all the lock gates and paddles had been closed. 

Going down Farmer's Bridge Locks - there were a lot of locks to get UP to Birmingham, now there's 35 to get down today!  (Who'd have thought it was up hill to Birmingham!)

Lots of fancy apartment blocks built along the canal.

The old, and the new.

The carved lock gate poetry has reached here too.  I suppose it's better than some of the graffiti.
Heading under the Post Office Tower

You'd think that these openings in the wall on the bridge are part of an old warf - or toll house, but it's for the Fire Service etc. to rescue people from the canal, or to get water for their pumps.

Ah - just what you don't want to see when you're dodging stoppages - lots of scaffolding in the canal!  This pic was taken once I'd got past it and into the next lock (once I'd found my camera).  When I came out of the lock (above), I saw all this scaffolding and immediately thought "AHHH, I've got it wrong, and this bit of canal is closed!  No need to panic - there's still work continuing through Aston Locks, but the canal is open.  Phew!

Ah, the grit store nearing the bottom of Aston locks.  You can't see it very well, but it is stuffed to the gunnels with grit. 
At the bottom lock of the Aston flight, the ratchet was missing from one of the top paddles, so I sent a tweet to CRT on line with the problem, and the exact location.  I had a reply back to say that my report had been forwarded to the team at Brentford!  I replied that why would a problem on a lock paddle at Birmingham be passed on to Brentford.  Duh!  It all got sorted after a few 'tweets'.
So we carried on going down Curdsworth and rubbish strewn Minworth, and eventually arrived at the Dog and Doublet at Bodymoor Heath... but that's in the next blog.  Maffi has shamed us into picking up rubbish where we see it, but the amount thrown into the canal around Minworth is shameful. 

Wednesday, 25 December 2013


Thanks very much for reading this blog, and we both wish you all a very merry Christmas and health, wealth and happiness for 2014.  Sue and Dave.

So cheers to all our friends, some random photos now, just because I can!
Jeanette & Allen
Jeanette, Mandi & Me

Mum & Buffy

Dot & Dave
L-R:  Andy, Richard, Nigel, Me, Carole, Dave
L-R Rick, Hazel, Dai, Me, Dave
Nel & Bethan
The Davies Clan.

I'm going to take this opportunity to say how much we both miss those who are dear to us, who are no longer with us.  Dave lost his Dad a couple of months ago, and his Mum a couple of years ago...
Dave's Mum & Dad, celebrating their diamond wedding anniversary a few years ago.

And my Dad. Still sorely missed.
This is him receiving the Welsh Amateur Cup in 1963
A great footballer, but an even better Dad.
The little baby with Dad on his BMW is Robert, my nephew,
who has just been awarded an MSc.  Genius in the family - must take after me!

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Birmingham - Market and a special concert!

We've had a lovely time in Birmingham - though Nemo cat wasn't best pleased at being in city centre - wimp that he is!  We had seen the weather forecast, so decided to keep going from Brewood into Birmingham, to avoid the rain which was on it's way.  As you can see from the photos, it was the right decision as it poured down all day.  Not much fun doing locks in the rain!  We did however venture out for a look round Birmingham.  The ice rink had been assembled again...

as had the big wheel. 
I did fancy a go, but there wasn't much point in the pouring rain with nil visibility!

Birmingham Library is now fully complete and open - quite spectacular.
Although it was on our list of 'things to do in Birmingham' we didn't have time to explore inside.

We did "do" the German Market however....

Craft stalls outside the Town Hall

The famous talking/singing moose.  Still funny.

Loads of festive cheer on offer.

Dressed up for Christmas at the Bull Ring.

Now these next photos - the reason for the pre-Christmas visit to Birmingham - we had tickets to see Cerys Matthews in concert in the Town Hall.  She certainly didn't disappoint!  She's Dave's favourite.  This is a scene from the stage before she, and the performers came on.  Photos are strictly forbidden during the performance, hence the empty stage.  Behind the black screen you can see above, is this monster......

Built in 1834, with 32foot pipes, it was the largest organ in England at the time.

And so to Cerys ... the concert was great, her voice just seems to improve year on year.  Dave waited in line to get his CD signed, and had a chat - he reminded her of her narrowboat holiday a couple of years ago along the top end of the Llangollen canal, where we both chatted to her:- Dave, when she and her pals came into Chirk Marina, and me when she moored in Trevor Basin, just after the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, and had a breakfast barbeque (I was on duty with BW at the time).

After meeting his heroine, he's had the same grin on his face ever since!